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The Winter Olympics weren't made for guys like me!

by J.W. Miller on 02/19/18

We’re halfway through the Winter Olympics, and I’m throwing in the frozen towel. The Winter Games weren’t meant for a guy like me. It probably hasn’t helped that the USA athletes have not fared as well as hoped, but whether my disinterest is because I am a front-runner, a patriotic elitist or just somebody who likes sports I can understand, the past week might as well have been titled the Quadrennial International Spandex Championships. 

It’s not from a lack of trying. I have watched, or tried to watch, events nearly every evening, and I am convinced that most of the ten medals the USA has won so far all were in sports televised between 3 and 4:30 a.m. I tried to watch one of America’s gold-medal figure skating favorites, Nathan Chen, twice and twice ice chips flew off the seat of his pants. I missed Mikaela Shiffrin’s downhill gold, but I did see her barf-hampered fourth-place finish in the slalom.

Apologies to my cousins Ken and Becca Purnell, whose son and daughter are accomplished skaters, but why does TV have to show figure skating every night? Yes, I understand the beauty and athleticism of the skaters, but I need some education before I can experience the thrill of a properly executed catch-foot camel spin, or wax poetic while watching a one-foot double Salchow or a triple twist lift or inside axel or a double toe loop. And when I saw a European skater fall then finish higher than an American who remained upright, I stared blankly at the screen and went “Huh? I don’t like to watch sports where I feel like a dumbass

Honestly, the most entertaining performance I’ve seen in the rink was the sumo figure skater in the Geico commercial! Maybe it’s because my idea of competition is when an individual or team show their skills in the vicinity of a ball. I understand when one team tries to put a football over the goal line while the other team tries to intercept it. I get it when a pitcher throws a baseball that a batter tries to knock out of the park. It makes sense when two basketball teams fight to put one ball in their basket. I don’t get the same sense of competition when one team member slides a stone across the ice and the other sweeps a path toward other stones. Curling reminds me of shuffleboard. And luge rekindled nightmares of the slippy-slide that propelled my kids across the yard and into the neighbor’s alligator pool. 

I admit that downhill skiing is exciting, but I prefer the summer games when sprinters race against each other on the same track. Maybe downhill skiing needs to change its format to where all the skiers come out of the chute at the same time and whip their ski poles at one another all the way down the hill. First one across the goal standing wins! 

Joe Queenan of the Wall Street Journal is a kindred spirit, because his column Saturday offered other suggestions on how the Winter Olympics could appeal more to guys like us. One suggestion was the Biathlon Backstroke where instead of shooting while cross-country skiing, the athlete shoots while swimming on their back, preferably in a large shark tank. Slalom Volleyball would combine a popular summer sport with a downhill race as two teams try to keep the ball in the air while zig-zagging downhill. My personal favorite is Nordic Swimming which is a 1,500-meter freestyle in a glacial mountain lake. Queenan suggests that even hockey would be more exciting if the players had to dodge a polar bear on the ice. 

Those suggestions are not unlike my long-time proposal for full-contact golf, but it’s not just me who is losing interest. Viewership numbers are down 10% from the most recent winter games, 2014 at Sochi, which is intoned by Olympics announcers with the implied understanding that viewers know where the hell Sochi is. Defenders will argue that NFL ratings are also down about the same percentage, but give us 17 weeks of Winter Games and see how low the numbers go. On second thought, let’s not extend the Winter Games. Two weeks is more than enough!

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